Kivela meth bill not perfect but is step in right direction

Michigan House Bill 4248 – introduced in the state house Tuesday by state Rep. John Kivela, D-Marquette – would require a prescription for the purchase of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, a pair of decongestants that also happen to be key components in methamphetamine.

The Mining Journal believes the bill, which was sent to the house’s health policy committee, would cause a minor inconvenience to some residents of the state, while sparing everyone the destruction wrought by methamphetamine labs.

And honestly, the headlines of the last few years have been hard to miss. Lab-related explosions, fires and even murders have occurred – and that’s just in Marquette County. But despite public outcry and strict prosecution, it seems the problem is only getting worse.

In 2012, the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team – which operates across 12 U.P. counties – dealt with 35 meth labs. That’s a 57 percent increase from 2011 and a 500 percent increase from 2010, a year in which UPSET saw just seven labs.

Statewide, the Michigan State Police reported 299 meth lab seizures in 2010.

To protect our families, our neighbors and our communities, something needs to be done. And while it’s likely true that legislators can’t keep people from using meth, they can keep prospective manufacturers away from the main ingredients.

In Oregon, a nearly identical law took effect in the summer of 2006. From 2004 to 2011, annual meth lab seizures in a nine-county section of Oregon, identified as a high-intensity drug trafficking area, dropped from 448 to 10.

A similar law in Mississippi has led to a 70 percent drop in lab seizures.

We remain concerned that HB 4248 does too little to ensure cheap and continued access to pseudoephedrine prescriptions for legitimate patients – under the law they could be forced to obtain a possibly costly prescription from a doctor or physician assistant. And though that topic should be addressed swiftly, the benefits of legislation, at this point, far outweigh the costs.

The data clearly indicates the law would result in fewer labs, and that means fewer explosions, fires and injuries. It means not only that state residents will worry less about safety, but that law enforcement resources should be freed up for other police purposes.

The state police, a group with a unique knowledge of Michigan’s meth culture, summed up the case for such laws in a 2011 report to the state legislature, which read: “The overall cost of investigating and remediating methamphetamine laboratories will likely increase if pseudoephedrine remains easily accessible to lab operators … Based on the proven success of prescription-only pseudoephedrine legislation in Mississippi and Oregon, Michigan should investigate the option of a ban on over-the-counter sale of the drug.”

We agree.